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June 23, 2017

Who’ll Be GM A Year From Now?

General manager Ted Thompson’s contract expires after the 2018 NFL Draft, so the next 10 months should be filled with rumors as to who’ll be running the team a year from now. Here’s my list of possibilities, from most likely to least likely:

TED THOMPSON  Assuming both his health and his team remain good, it’s hard to imagine the 64-year-old voluntarily walking away from the sweetest GM gig in sports. Thompson doesn’t have to speak with the press from July through March. Thanks to VP Russ Ball, he rarely has to deal with administrative duties. And he doesn’t even have to be bothered with pesky job interviews (the last key front office hire was Ball in 2008, and he came via a recommendation from coach Mike McCarthy). In short, Thompson is paid $3 million a year to be a glorified scout. Of course, there’s always a chance Mark Murphy could force him out, but how realistic is that? The prez seems thrilled to not have to deal with the football side of things and spend most of his time figuring out ways to make the franchise even more lucrative.

JOHN DORSEY – Until he signs an extension with the Chiefs – his deal expires after the 2018 draft – this will be a viable option, and perhaps the only one that would get Murphy to even think about nudging Thompson out the door. Dorsey has established himself as one of the top GMs in the league since leaving the Green Bay front office in 2013, and although he keeps saying how much he enjoys being in Kansas City, the chance to have complete control of a franchise would have to be very tempting. Right now, he reports to coach Andy Reid, who doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. My gut tells me that Dorsey will ultimately re-sign with the Chiefs, but if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he winds up back in the place he called home as first a player and then a scout for 27 years – whether Thompson likes it or not.

RUSS BALL – I’ve been writing about this possibility for a few years, and it’s now become a hot topic among the local media. Forget all the talk about him attending practices and watching film – this guy is a (very good) bean counter. But he’s also close to the head coach, and that’s why he’s a legitimate candidate to replace Thompson. Assuming McCarthy returns in 2018 – and that’s not a certainty – Ball would be a more logical replacement than director of football operations Eliot Wolf. Could you imagine a 53-year-old Super Bowl-winning coach taking orders from a 35-year-old with no experience as a general manager? It might make the most sense – at least in the short term – to replace Thompson with Ball and either keep Wolf in his current position or give director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst a promotion. This would obviously be the most unorthodox move, but it could also be the one that creates the least amount of drama.

BRIAN GUTEKUNST – While I don’t see this happening as long as McCarthy is still around, I think he’d get the nod over Wolf, whom I’ve always thought would begin his GM career elsewhere before perhaps returning to run the Packers. Not only would holding the same job in the same place as your Hall of Fame father be daunting, but how about learning on the job while also expected to win another Super Bowl or two before future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers calls it a career? Gutekunst would also be learning on the job, but he’s nine years older than Wolf and has six more years of experience. And just as importantly, he seems to have an even better reputation around the league. Both the 49ers and the Bills were clearly more interested in Gutekunst than Wolf when the two teams were searching for GMs at the end of last season.

Here’s one more thing on Wolf. Based on his current job, there’s no question he’d be the logical heir to the throne. But if that was truly the case, he wouldn’t have interviewed with San Francisco and Buffalo. Those were terrible jobs. Both teams have meddling and incompetent owners, and both teams already had a new head coach in place. That tells me Wolf knows he’s not going to be Thompson’s replacement next year. or – and this is the one I’m going with – he knows the Packers won’t be looking for a replacement next year.

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5 Responses “Who’ll Be GM A Year From Now?”

  1. Madfan
    June 12, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    How does age fit into this picture — especially with the need to find a successor to Aaron Rodgers in a few years?

    Will the Packers need to rebuild once A. Rodgers retires?

    Given those two tasks, would you hire a GM in his 60’s? Would a person in his 60’s wish to take on a re-building project?

    I can see TT staying with a new contract. But, I see him leaving in about three years. At that time, Ball is in his 60’s and MM may be considering leaving coaching.

    Wolf may wish to move up to GM, but may not want to sit for another three to five years.

  2. TJV
    June 13, 2017 at 11:16 am

    I agree it’s extremely likely Thompson’s contract gets extended. I think that’s too bad. Thompson said the team’s roster had gotten stale (before the addition of 5 FAs); I think the same can be said of Thompson’s tenure in Green Bay. Maybe those FA additions were a signal to Murphy that he’ll be more flexible if he re-ups?

    In the unlikely event Thompson is replaced, I think Ball would be a bad idea: When Harlan “re-made” the organization the central idea was to have a “football man” in charge and talent evaluation is a big part of that. Dorsey would be my first choice, but I’d rather take a flier on Wolf or Gutekunst, in spite of their age and inexperience than have Thompson around for the foreseeable future.

  3. Jeremy
    June 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Wolf would be the ultimate crystal ball pick. It’s gonna be brilliant or a disaster. I agree that MM would probably take issue with being #2 to someone with so much less experience. I think they’d have to redo job duties with MM getting final say on roster moves, sorta like Carroll does in SEA. Seems to work fine for them.

    Either way, this whole thing could play out so interesting. Extend Ted 2 and extend MM 3? That’s my thought. That way if Ted walks away, the new GM- whoever it is- gets a year to evaluate without having to worry too much about making big staffing decisions before they have to deal with it.

  4. Jeremy
    June 14, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Oh, and as far as Ball goes… I think he’s more suited to be Mark Murphy’s replacement than TT’s. He has wide ranging experience, knows the financials and the nuts and bolts of running a franchise. If there’s a job he graduates to, a VP type is it, not GM.

  5. Deepsky
    June 21, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    John Dorsey. No question. That’s my first pick.

    I’m a big believer that while Ron Wolf implemented a system that allowed the Packers to flourish, the group of young scouts he hired including Dorsey, Schneider, Thompson, and McKenzie actually learned to evaluate talent from long time Packer scouts Red Cochran, Hawk Hanner and Ray Weitecha and others. Scouts who Bart Starr and Forest Gregg ignored.

    Dorsey was actually hired by the Packers before Ron Wolf.

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